The last first day

I decided to take the week after Labor Day off work this year for a couple of reasons.

Reason No. 1 – My husband Eric told me he needs to burn a couple vacation days, so we decided to grab a few days together and do a bit of local fishing. Our fishing opportunities this summer were few and far between. We’ll do that on the Thursday and Friday of that week, weather permitting.

Reason No. 2 – I try to take a few days off each year to deal with the multitude of apples in my backyard. We have seven very generous apple trees and I feel bad when I’m not productive with the apples. Since Eric hates dealing with them (even though he’s the one that insisted we plant them) it kind of falls to me. I used to put the kids to work during the “apple days,” but I seem to be rapidly running out of available free labor. Which brings me to my third reason.

Reason No. 3 – The day after Labor Day is the first day of school for Murray County Central junior high and high school students. This makes it the last first day of school for my youngest kid, Matthew, who is a senior this year. Therefore, it is my last first day of school as a mom. I want to be there for it.

Granted, my son Matt won’t climb on a big, shiny yellow school bus wearing new clothes and sporting a backpack full of new crayons and notebooks. He’ll probably fling a few things into his car and drive off without much ado. If I’m lucky, he’ll yell out, “Mom, I’m leaving,” as he slams the door.

The thing is, I still remember his first day of real school. I stood out in front of the house and watched him walk off holding his big sister Maggie’s hand and squabbling with his older brother Nick, an experienced school-goer who was preparing to start second grade. If I’m doing the math right, Maggie was starting seventh grade. Matt did go to preschool the year before, but kindergarten was “real school,” he told me.

Back then, my kids caught the bus a block away, so I stood in the driveway in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and silly slippers and watched my baby boy head out for a new experience, all excited and without even thinking of looking back at Mommy, the little ingrate. I saw the bus pull up, watched my three kids climb aboard and away they went, taking my last little kid away and preparing to turn him over to some teacher who didn’t know what it meant when his chubby cheeks began to sag (tired kid) and who had no idea what havoc could be in the works when he got that bored expression on his face.

Yep, my baby took his first big step away from me, all those years ago.

I watched the bus head down the road that day and was helpless to resist the emotion that flooded my body.

“Woohoo! Woohoo!” I yelled to the world as I spun in a circle in the driveway and danced my way into the house, pink bathrobe, silly slippers and all. “No more day care!”

I danced and I spun and I laughed.

Wow! Trips to the grocery store by myself, folding laundry without dragging a kid out of the neat stacks already on the table, having lunch whenever I darned well felt like it. The feeling of power was incredible! No more juggling work schedules with babysitter schedules. No more wondering what he was up to while I was taking two-minute showers.

Wow. This was great!

Oh, wait a minute. Hold up, there. Wait! My baby.

Sigh.

Now, the last first day is right around the corner. Bittersweet. Two other birds have flown the nest. My third is spreading his wings and ready to launch.

I’m expecting Matthew’s senior year to tug at my mommy emotions on a pretty regular basis. The joy of seeing my kids grow is as strong as the urge to grab them up and cuddle them in my arms. As strong as the wish that they could be little again, just for a minute, just long enough to hear their tiny little voices or monumental little kid bellows. And as strong as the will power it takes not to let the tears fall during a mommy moment when they can see me cry.

I think, to balance out the circle of life, I’ll make a point to pull out my pink bathrobe (a different one these days) and try to find a pair of silly slippers. I’ll dance in the driveway, just because I can.

Then I’ll get dressed and go pick apples. Life just keeps on moving on, doesn’t it?

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